Have you ever heard the phrase “change your space, change your life”? Although this phrase is most used when referring to the Chinese interior design practice of feng shui, it applies to life overall in so many ways. According to the US Census Bureau’s most recent statistics, between 11.5 and 12.5 percent of Americans move each year – a number that has continuously decreased over the past century, but is still a large percent when considering the population overall. In fact, as many as thirty-five million people in our country relocate in any given year. Now that you are on the path to recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, perhaps it’s time you moved to a new city, or state, or even country to have a fresh start, and continue on your journey in a new environment.
Although experts generally advise people in recovery to stay away from any major changes for their first sober year, once you have accomplished that great feat, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t consider a big move. Or, if you are in early recovery, but know the area in which you currently live may be toxic for your goals, relocation may be a vital part of your success. Don’t be hasty when deciding whether or not to move somewhere else, though – each individual’s situation is different, and you need to take your time and weigh all the pros and cons before deciding if moving is right for you.
Positives of Relocating
There are many good reasons to move if you are actively pursuing recovery from your addiction. First of all, and most obviously, it will give you a fresh start. Imagine, a new town, with new people, and a new job, and brand new things to do! It really is like starting over. You won’t know anyone, and no one will know about your past unless you tell him or her. If you feel as if you created a bad reputation for yourself in your hometown while actively addicted, now you will have a clean slate. You’ll have entirely, brand new things to focus on while you build your new life, explore your new town, and meet new people.
Also, if your current living situation is a negative one, you’ll be getting away from all that. If addiction runs in your family, you’ll be moving away from old cycles and unhealthy relationships with your parents or siblings. Even if your family is sober and supportive, moving can help you get away from the people, places, and things that inspired you to use. Old habits are easier to break if you are away from the things that remind you of them. A 1982 study published in Archives of General Psychiatry examined this concept; 248 opiate addicts who began in San Antonio, TX, were studied over twenty years. During that time, 171 of the subjects moved a total of 465 times. Of these individuals, 54% abstained from opiate use while away from San Antonio, but only 12% did while back in their hometown. When abstinent subjects returned to San Antonio, they resumed opioid use within one month in 81% of the cases. These numbers are truly incredible and certainly make a case against returning to your old stomping grounds when trying to remain drug free.
However, although there are a great many arguments for relocating to a new city or state when working on your recovery, it can also be very challenging, Some people can become very stressed out by change, and if you are one of them, moving may not be for you. Also, if you have supportive friends and family where you currently live, or are involved in an effective and supportive therapy group that you enjoy, maybe staying put is the best course of action. Moving is not for everyone. If you have a good job, a nice place to live, and friends who are excited about your recovery journey at home, then it might just be better to stay where you are.
When to Consider Relocation
As mentioned above, you may not want to consider moving until you have a full year of a clean and sober lifestyle under your belt, but in some cases, the sooner you can move, the better off you may be. If you find that you really want to quit abusing drugs, but fail time and time again, moving may be just what you need, and it may be your only chance to get clean once and for all. Perhaps you have stuck around as long as you have because you don’t want to be viewed as if you are running away from your problems, but don’t look at it that way. Instead, look at it as a new start. It’s like a second chance in life and a way to start over. If you know of somewhere else in your state or country where you have supportive friends and family, you should go there and give it a shot. A change of scenery and people may be exactly what you need.
How to Relocate
Unfortunately, just like most good things in life, relocating isn’t easy – even for people who are not in your addiction recovery situation. Moving to a new place is a big undertaking, and you need to be prepared. However, don’t over plan either, or you’ll never actually go! Start by considering different places and making a list. Then, take time to research each area and check out the cost of living and the job market. Next, start looking for apartments online and start applying for jobs via email. Use online job boards like indeed.com and monster.com to get an idea of what is available and what the jobs there pay. It’s not necessary to find your dream job before moving; for starters, you can just get something simple like a store clerk position or restaurant job, or work for a temp agency. Jobs like these can lead to more lucrative positions later on, and you can always keep looking for something better once you are officially moved in and settled.
Moving can be exciting, and it can truly change your life. But remember – no matter where you go, you take YOU along with you. Furthermore, your addiction will follow you wherever you go and is for life – so focus on your sobriety first and foremost, and take steps to ensure that you stay healthy and avoid relapse. Make sure you find new support systems in your new home, and be sure to keep going to groups and staying in therapy. Set reasonable expectations for your new city or state; don’t expect your life to be a thousand times better, necessarily, just different – but if it does become a thousand times better after all, then congratulations! If you plan things right and stay focused on your goals, moving to a new place can be a great way to start over. Good luck!